Chia seeds, also known as salvia hispanica, are known to have several health benefits due to the presence of important minerals and nutrients in them. Their role in assisting weight loss, improving bone health, and improving cardiovascular health, has prompted experts to deem this whole grain option a superfood.
Table of Contents
Chia Seeds Benefits
The abundance of nutrients in them means chia seeds have a host of health benefits. Here’s a list of 9 benefits of these seeds:
Assists in Weight Loss
When you eat food which is rich in protein and fiber, it will lead to weight loss. Fiber present in chia seeds makes you feel full, as it expands after absorbing large volumes of water from your body. They can absorb water up to 12 times their weight.
Also, these seeds provide high amounts of protein, another nutrient that decreases your appetite. Remember to complement the chia seeds in your diet with a healthy lifestyle, which makes it easier to lose weight.
Enhances Digestive Health
For every 28 grams of chia seeds, you get almost 11 grams of fiber, allowing you to get the required amount of this nutrient from a single serving. The dietary fiber, present in these seeds, has a positive impact on your bowel movement, while giving your stool a healthy appearance.
An interesting thing to note is that chia seeds create a substance which resembles gelatin, after consumption. They form this substance because of the presence of soluble fiber. It improves your digestive health by encouraging prebiotics to grow in your gut.
Full of Antioxidants
Studies show that antioxidants fight free radical production in your body. Free radicals are dangerous, as they damage your cells. As a result of this, they can cause diseases like cancer during the later stages of life. Also, they are responsible for ageing and cognitive decline.
The antioxidant content in chia seeds can protect your cells from these dangers. Keep in mind that obtaining antioxidants from natural sources is better than consuming supplements.
Great Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Chia seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, they manage and prevent heart diseases, by reducing blood pressure. It also decreases the fat in your liver, improves joint and bone health, prevents your skin from ageing prematurely, and increases the quality of sleep.
By eating chia seeds, your body gets the required amounts of Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). Consume fish oil, DHA supplements, or fatty fish along with them so that your body can convert ALA into its more active and useful forms, DHA and EPA.
There was a study published in the Journal of Molecular Biochemistry, which examined the impact of ALA on cervical and breast cancer. The researchers found that ALA destroys cancer cells while keeping the healthy ones out of harm’s way. There needs to be more research on the impact of ALA on other types of cancer. However, it is good to know that it can help fight some variants.
High Nutrient Density
One of the main reasons why chia seeds are gaining popularity all around the world is because of its high nutrient density. By eating two tablespoons of chia seeds, you get calcium, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, protein, and vitamin A. It also provides small amounts of copper, potassium, and zinc.
Improves Dental Health
Nutrients such as zinc, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin A are great for your teeth. The presence of calcium in chia seeds helps strengthen your teeth, making them great for dental health. At the same time, zinc keeps tartar at bay, by preventing plaque from building up. Also, due to its antibacterial effects, the germs responsible for bad breath cannot sustain themselves. Phosphorus and vitamin A keep your mouth healthy and add to the strength of your teeth.
Improves Bone Health
A single serving of chia seeds can account for about 18% of your daily calcium requirements. This mineral is an important nutrient for bone health, as it maintains their mass and strength. They also contain boron, which further improves your bone health. It is responsible for metabolising phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and manganese, which promotes healthy growth in your bones.
Prevents Spike in Sugar Levels
Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, due to which your body doesn’t need to increase the amount of blood sugar to digest them. As a result of this, your pancreas doesn’t have to increase its production of insulin. When you consume food with high amounts of fiber, it will stabilise your blood sugar.
A study conducted by National Institute of Medicine has shown what happens when you consume a diet which has 14 grams of fiber out of 1,000 calories. There is a considerable reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes. There was another study, which showed the positive effects of these tiny seeds on diabetes patients. For 12 weeks, 20 patients got either wheat bran or chia seeds. The researchers found out that the patients who ate chia seeds were showing signs of improvement in health markers such as vWF, hs-CRP, and blood pressure.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
According to certain recent studies, dietary fiber can help regulate the immune system and inflammation. Therefore, eating more chia seeds could decrease the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
A higher fiber intake has been known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A review consisting of 67 different controlled trials showed that a modest 10-gram increase in fiber intake everyday reduced LDL or “bad cholesterol”, as well as total cholesterol levels in the body. Therefore, the consumption of chia seeds can help bring cholesterol levels under control.
How to eat Chia Seeds?
There are several ways you can consume these healthy seeds. To ensure that your body can absorb all the nutrients, you should soak or grind them, before consumption.
Although there is a lot of debate about whether you should eat them raw or soaked, there is no difference in either. However, when you soak the seeds, it removes the protective “enzyme inhibitors.”
If you plan on soaking them, mix one and a half tablespoons of chia seeds with a single cup of water. By following this procedure, the mixture doesn’t become watery. Allow the seeds to settle in the water for at least 30 minutes before consuming them. If you grind the seeds, make sure that you store it in a sealed container, kept inside the refrigerator. Here are a few things you can do to consume chia seeds:
Add it to Muffins, Waffles, Homemade Granola Bars, and Pancakes
If you find it hard to stay away from food such as pancakes, homemade granola bars, muffins, waffles, and pancakes, you can add chia seeds, and make them nutritious. Its neutral flavour ensures that these dishes remain just as delicious.
Combine it with Vegetables, Meat, or Fish
Improve the nutritional value of vegetables, meat, or fish, by simply adding chia seeds to them. This would also result in an extra layer of crunchiness.
Make a Jam
You can replace pectin with chia seeds, as they can soak up water from your jam. At the same time, pectin is quite bitter, due to which, you have to add a lot of sugar, to make your jam sweet. For example, heat water and blueberries on a pan, till they become soft. Pulverise the berries with the help of a potato masher, before adding cinnamon, honey, and lemon juice. Stop heating the mixture and add chia seeds. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and store it in the refrigerator till it gets the consistency of a jam. If you don’t like blueberries, you can replace them with plums, peaches, or any other fruit of your choice.
Make a Pudding
As chia seeds can absorb large quantities of liquid, you can soak them in milk or water overnight. The next day, they will transform this mixture into a pudding-like texture. You can convert this into a delicious pudding by adding cacao/cocoa powder, maple syrup, almond milk/regular milk, and vanilla extract. Blend all these items together till the texture becomes creamy and smooth. Store this pudding in the refrigerator for at least three to five hours, before consumption.
Top off Oatmeal or Yoghurt
Adding chia seeds to oatmeal would require minimal effort. You can also add it as a topping for your yoghurt. If you find the gelatinous texture weird, add the chia seeds just before you consume these dishes.
Make a Smoothie
You can also choose to drink these seeds in the form of a Green Chia Smoothie. Simply put together 2 cups of spinach, 1.5 cups of water, and 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, and blend them. You can then add a peeled orange, a cup of frozen blueberries, and one cup of strawberries, before blending again.
Chia Seeds Side Effects
While they are a predominantly healthy snack, a few health risks have been observed to be associated with this superfood. A few potential side effects of consuming chia seeds are listed below:
- While fiber is important for one’s health, excessive intake can cause abdominal pain, constipation and bloating. Eating too many chia seeds can lead to digestive problems if not consumed correctly. However, these negative symptoms can be prevented or regulated by increasing fiber intake slowly, and drinking a lot of water to help it pass through the body.
- While they may be safe to most people, the consumption of chia seeds comes with the risk of choking. One must always consume these seeds carefully, especially if they have problems swallowing. This risk is due to the fact that chia seeds swell up and can absorb 10-12 times their weight when they are exposed to water.
- Chia seeds are known to contain a good amount of Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). Some studies say that excessive ALA intake may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
- Although uncommon, people have been known to be allergic to chia seeds. Symptoms of the allergy may include vomiting, diarrhea and itching of the lips and the tongue.
Chia seeds have several incredible benefits, ranging from aiding weight loss to improved bone and cardiovascular health. Include these tiny seeds in your favourite dish, or have them as a part of dessert. Simply make sure that chia seeds are a part of your diet in order to reap their many benefits.